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22 July 2008 @ 10:56 pm
Johnny Rockets  
Warning: This is a pretty long entry. Head to another page if you don't want to bore yourself to death. You have been warned.

Forgive me if you spot any grammatical errors. Or whatever. I'm just too lazy to read it all over again and edit. It's fcuking too long.

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Yeah, I know, I know, I should just get over this nostalgia thing. Move on. Do what I gotta do. Live life the way how it should now be lived. But you can't really blame me.

It never dawned on me that I would actually miss the work. C'mon, who would? The grumpy customers? The clogged drains? The unstable POS? It was all a mess. But, you know what, when I think about it...those are what I miss the most. Well, next to all the great people I worked with. :)

Johnny Rockets is one big black hole. When you get too near it, it engulfs you, despite all your objections and efforts to paddle away. And I'm so glad I subjected to the force. xD

It truly was more than I expected. Five months ago, when Mrs. Dapul said that we were going to be trained in a way which is far from how we would be if it were here in the country, I just thought it was going be a little different and a little harder. I guess I was more than a little wrong.

We don't have Johnny Rockets in the country, so maybe it'll be hard to comprehend. But I'll try my best to share my experiences as honest to the real thing as possible.

If you work in a self-service restaurant here in the Philippines, (e.g. KFC, Jollibee, McDonald's) it's a very simple set-up. Say you work as a cashier. You stand behind the computer, the customers line up in front of you. But you have a counter that defines the boundary between customer and associate. And you move in a confined space. No matter how busy it gets, you just move there, where the customer can see your every move. And you do nothing else but flash a smile and give a greeting, punch the orders in the system, upsell, grab the food from the rack thing where all the orders come out, prepare the beverages, grab some fries, and walk back to the counter (which is just a few steps away), back to the waiting customer and, most of the time, the contact ends there. Unless you get a complaint. ~_~ Then comes your next customer.

Full-service restaurants are probably a bit more different. But thing is, if you're a cashier, you're just the cashier. And if you're a server, you just do the serving.



1) A customer comes in or maybe customers. You greet them with a "hello," loud enough for every associate in the restaurant to hear so they can echo another "hello." You follow them or make them follow you to a table.

2) You give them the menu, they think about their orders, they ask a few questions, ask what you recommend and why. So this thinking process takes just a minute or two or, sometimes, more than fifteen minutes.

And you also have a Kids Menu other than the regular one. You need to know and understand every thing about these menus.

3) Oh, wait, since it's Johnny Rockets in America, most of the time, you get Americans for customers, so it's a culture quite a bit harder to please -- then, comes the usual demands, "Cut the tomato. Add grilled mushrooms. I want it medium well. Toast the buns well. I don't want the bread toasted. Can I get eggs on this? I want my bacon extra crispy, like almost burnt. No special sauce, add mayonnaise instead."

Yes, believe me, I was shocked, too. Now, it would be very easy if it's just one customer, but you deal with a table often with more than 2 persons, and if you're lucky enough, you get eight people in one table.

I once had a table with 17 people. Fifteen 10-year olds and two adults.

4) When they finish ordering, you run to the nearest Micros (that's what the POS is called), you swipe the card and punch in the orders. Oh, before you hit serve, make sure every thing is correct. And I mean every thing, the firm tomatoes, the light mayo, the melted cheese, every thing. Americans are not very jolly dissatisfied customers, you know. If you can't find all the requests in the computer, hit serve then run immediately to the cook's counter and write the requests on the cook's order copy.

5) Most of the time, you get and give the customers their drink orders before you get the rest of their orders. So you run back to the bar/kitchen, grab a glass or two or maybe seven and fill them with the beverages. If it really is your lucky day, they order shakes or floats. The shakes are one of the best-selling items in the menu, customers can't get enough of 'em. And everybody also knows that shakes are the hardest to do for the servers, especially, if the ice cream is rock hard -- scoop it the wrong way, you can break your wrist. Seriously, it can. :[ It also takes the longest time. Most customers don't know that. Oh, we don't have just one or three shake flavors -- we have twelve. And serve them before the whip cream melts or before the ice cream on the float bubbles up and explodes.

The food. Of course, you start with the starters. You drop the fries or onion rings -- oh, yes, you're not just the server, you're also a pseudo-cook here. Wait for it to cook then serve the fries with a smiley ketchup. They need to be served hot and fresh, right from the fryer, because that's what the menu says. And they should also be served before the entrees.

Also, while we're on the frying station, you also prepare the chicken tenders for the salads and kids meal.

6) After the starters, here comes the entree or entrees. Serve them before they get cold. After this, when you've done every thing correctly, you just do the follow-throughs, which are: making sure their beverages are never empty, checking if they need anything or every thing is fine. And if they're almost done with the food ask if they would like anything else.

7) Then, give them the ticket if they ask for it. Oh, before you hand it to them, write something witty or sweet. "Have a good day!" or "Thank you for being very patient." or "You are great customers!" Throw in a ":)" too. Encircle your name on the receipt. Then, that's when you give it to them. If they pay cash, you give them change from your own bank. Yes, you're not just a server and a cook, you're also your own cashier.

The paying probably sounds like an easy process. But not if they want their checks split. Yes, you can actually do that. Split one check in two, three, or even seven, sky is the limit. Americans want everything done for them. So if they tell you they want their check split after they've eaten, you need to remember who ate what. Then, three of them pay with cards and two pay with cash. So you get all agitated and feel like wanting to curse and crush their faces but you end up going back to them with a forced warm smile after five minutes of figuring out how to split the goddamn check into gazillion separate checks, hoping they'd give you a big tip.

That's, basically, how it goes in Johnny Rockets. Here's a couple of more fillers:

Johnny Rockets' servers also dance, and if the chanting could be considered, they also sing. Once the dance music turns on, you're suppose to stop anything that you're doing and head to the front of the bar and do your thing. During our first weeks, Iris and I would do anything just to avoid it. But I eventually got the hang of it. Time came when we would even be the ones to request the dancing. Now, the restaurant is inside the mall and it's really a big attraction, we have music all day long and the dance music is always the loudest so the whole food court hears it. And when we start dancing, people gather around the restaurant to watch. Sometimes, the customers would even dance with us. So, yeah, I guess I lost the little insecurities I had left. Makapal-kapal na ang mukha ko ngayon. Haha!

Since, Johnny Rockets is located inside the mall, weekend traffic is heavy. And I mean VERY heavy. The turnover is more than quite speedy too. During weekdays, you won't get so much, it would only be during the opening (which is lunchtime) and dinnertime that people would flock, but for the hours in between you're in danger of falling asleep. But Saturdays are the craziest days. You never get a minute without a new table coming in. That's why servers get their own sections. We have 44 tables and a bar, and these would usually be divided into 8 sections with a server each. Remember the shake thing and the making sure every detail is done correctly? A lot of times, you have to do that with 3 to 4 tables simultaneously. For instance, you get three tables coming in at the same time, with more than three people each. Two of the tables all order shakes, while the other orders just soda pops but they want the starters served with their drinks already. So you're doing eight shakes and preparing fries and onion rings at the same time. Now, it would really be nice if you can take your time so everything would be perfect but nooo...people pay not just for perfect service but for fast and perfect service.

The only thing that the real cooks do are the burgers and sandwiches, the rest? You do yourself. And, here's the thing, if something's wrong with the burger...the cook doesn't get the blame, you do. And no matter how the cooks do their job they still get paid the way they're promised but servers depend on tips. Servers earn by their performance. If they do good, they earn great -- if not, then better luck next time. So if the customer thinks the burger is a little undercooked, a little dissatisfied with the food, they think they're not getting what they will be paying for, then the servers automatically get affected. The servers will receive a lower tip.

The fry station is probably the craziest area in the kitchen. It's so small and when it gets busy, servers cram in this little place. Since the starters need to be served fresh, you have to drop and cook them just when you get an order. Else, customers would be saying they want another basket of fries because the one you just served is cold and hard.

There's a small chiller beneath the frying station. When we open the restaurant, we fill it with around 10 bags of fries. When it's a Saturday, after an hour and a half (I think) from opening, they get all used up. So you need to run to the back to get another box of fries. Imagine me almost running with a box of fries, with six bags inside. This is in the midst of the most chaotic moments of the restaurant; with three tables waiting for your service, with three shakes you left being mixed in the shake machine, and which is also in danger of slipping and spilling.

We were the openers. Six days a week. Well, some Sundays we were not. Openers are the ones who open the restaurant. That means preparing every thing. And when we open we want every single thing in its place before pulling up the gate. Because opening is one of the busiest times of the day.

There were times when I just wanted to break down and cry; times when I almost couldn't handle the pressure anymore. Times like these:

I was the only opener during that day. When I arrived, which was one hour before opening, the only person in the restaurant was the cook. So I start my work. All was set thirty minutes before opening but there was still no manager. That was something to be worried about because the manager should have arrived three hours before. The cook goes to break and I was left alone. A trainee comes in. I call the office. And you know what they tell me? Open without a manager. I was pissed off but I couldn't do anything about it. So I did as soon as the cook arrived. Then came the rush. Imagine me having to work in an almost full restaurant, practically, all by myself. And that wasn't the only time.

Opening again. I had two managers with me. Two of the bests. But they left for the office and told me they will be right back. The cook also went on break. So I was alone again. Not even a trainee with me. So I waited for them to arrive. People had started gathering by the entrance fifteen minutes before, asking what time I was going to let them in, I apologize a couple of times and run to the office leaving the gate half-closed. I found my two managers and told them Rockets was still closed. They told me to open and that they will be right with me. So I headed back to the restaurant. Imagine my surprise when I found four tables waiting for my service. I wasn't even opened yet! Plus, no cook! But I couldn't tell them to leave so I just did my job. Working with four tables, some getting irritated because I had to make them wait, because I was trying to cook while serving. Though it was a good thing that one of the managers arrived fifteen minutes after.

The POS is called the Micros. It's where you put in the orders. And all the details, the "add grilled onions, cut in half, substitute ketchup" stuff. This is what you use to print the check and when they pay with a card. Managers also use this when canceling orders from a ticket or voiding it altogether. The Micros is great once you get used to it. It does so many things for you. So when it breaks down you're in one big trouble. It broke down a couple of times when we were there, but most of the time, it gets fixed before opening. But there was this one time when they couldn't fix it before opening. And to top it off, I was the only server. When the customers order, servers just write the orders on a piece of paper, including every detail. So when you have five people in one table (try picturing how the piece of paper would look like) guests would change their minds, so you would cross out items and they would make you add too many stuff and make you take off too many stuff as well. Yes, messy, anybody else other than the person who wrote it wouldn't understand. I had times when I couldn't even make out my own handwriting. But, anyway, that time when the Micros broke down, I opened and had four tables instantly. It would've been fine if the Micros was working, but it wasn't -- so I became pretty rattled. I had to make sure my handwriting was very clear because the cooks were going to refer to it too and it was the same check that I had to give to the customers. I was starting to lose confidence that every thing was going to be alright and before I would've totally lost it, they fixed the goddamn Micros! Yay! xD

I committed so many mistakes when I started: I served raw chicken strips, messed up checks, served half-filled malts, etc. Well, I also made a couple more after my first month. Like spilling ranch dressing on my guest's dress (also on a kid's shoe), spilling ice tea on a co-server, messing up checks again, etc. But just like what Tammy said, "it happens." ;D

We didn't just work as servers, cashiers and cooks, we had to be utility people too. We cleaned tables, washed dishes, cleaned the restaurant, etc. Especially, when there was no utility person to do these, which happened a lot. And part of a server's job is a couple of cleaning duties on closing time. Oh my.

Oh my.

Ohmy. Ohmy. xD This is getting pretty long. Haha.

I have so much more to share. But I think I have to stop. xD

See how much I love Johnny Rockets? I learned so much there. I even grew muscles. And people ask me why I've become so skinny?

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I wrote this because I wanted to document a few things before I forget them altogether. For practicum report purposes. :)

I don't have anything against Americans. And I didn't mean to offend anyone. I also had a lot of guests from different cultures that were as hard to deal with. Just, most of the time, I had Americans for customers. I was in America after all. :D
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Location: Hometown
Mood: chipperchipper
Music: I Melt With You - Jason Mraz
 
 
 
domi_quelldomi_quell on July 24th, 2008 02:22 am (UTC)
They want everything, their way, right now. Exactly. :D

I was really surprised, because here in the Philippines you just get what you see. You order a burger and they give it to you with everything. No special requests or whatever.